In a year of rising costs, supply chain interruptions, weaker export markets and cataclysmic weather, Steve Craig remained positive about the resilience of his province’s fishing sector in 2022.
“The economic impact of the sector continues to be high in Nova Scotia. We had it valued at about $2.8 billion,” said Craig, N.S. Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
“And then, of course, the innovations. You take a look at the things that are being done around traps, looking at ghost gear mitigation and looking at quality — at the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, we did a project that provided them with ways to keep the lobster when they come in of a high enough quality that we’re proud of here in Atlantic Canada.”
In lobster fishing areas (LFAs) 33 and 34, wharf prices for lobster saw a significant drop since 2021, with Craig noting lobster fell from around $11 a pound to around $6.50 at the opening of the season. While the minister does acknowledge the financial stress this drop has caused harvesters, he also mentioned that his department has been trying to open up new markets for Nova Scotia seafood.
“It’s a reality that the prices are down. It’s also a reality that people will always want to eat seafood, and we’ve got a growing population, and we’re trying to increase our markets with trade missions to provide more opportunities,” said Craig.
“I found travelling and calling around, that people were on the phone all the time looking for places to sell their products where perhaps they had been closed before and there’s been some successes there. But, when you get right back to the wharf… the wharf prices are affected by the end retail price where you or I as a consumer are going to buy it, whether we are a hotel or an industry in Asia, or Europe, or the U.S. or whether we’re looking at local superstores around here. You need to take a look at it from beginning to end.”
Given that the province is already on top of quantity, bringing in nearly 50,000 tonnes of lobster in 2021, Nova Scotia has been putting an emphasis on the quality of its catch in 2022. The government has launched a course that gives harvesters the skills and tools required to properly handle lobsters in order to raise their market value.
“We fund it through our Atlantic Fisheries Fund, Maritime Fisheries Union and through our Fisheries Loan Board. We’re financing and we’re providing grants in some cases so that people can put the gear they need on their boats to ensure the quality of the lobster.”
In the face of increasingly devastating and frequent storms like Hurricane Fiona, the minister said Nova Scotia is moving ahead with its climate action plan to create more resilient infrastructure while also mitigating the province’s carbon footprint. Nova Scotia intends to have its carbon emissions at 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050.
“We need to take a look, again, at that infrastructure. We’ve got the small craft harbour upgrades. The federal government with our support, naturally, is taking a look at the number of small craft harbours that need help,” said Craig.
“I think we had about 130-some here in Nova Scotia, and I would say 70 plus experienced some damage. So how do we not only repair those but how do we rebuild them so that they are a metre or two metres higher? Or what’s the construction material used? And how are they anchored? We need to be adaptable.”
In 2023, Craig aims for Nova Scotia to keep up with the growing seafood demand. He wants to focus on market diversity with developments in value-added products and new trade opportunities. He wants to improve labour conditions, especially in processing plants where some business owners are setting up housing units for their employees. Craig’s department also wants to focus on safety in the fisheries and ensure that everyone in the industry makes it home safely.
“It may be tough in 2023, but hey, we’re up for the challenge,” said Craig.